Biology

Honors Spotlight Star: Courtney Burns

Courtney Burns (’22) participates in Dr. King’s lab researching the effects of neurodegenerative diseases on microglia, the immune cells of the brain.
  1. Whose lab are you in?
    • Dr. Jennifer King
  1. Give a brief summary of your research.
    • I am looking at neurodegenerative diseases and how these diseases impact the brain. More specifically, I am looking at how these diseases impact the immune cells of the brain, known as microglia. When microglia become overactive, triggered by disease or trauma, they can cause the brain to become inflamed, which then results in neuronal cell death. In my research I am inducing the overactivation of microglia and observing the functional and structural implications it has.
  1. What are your future plans for after graduation?
    • I am hoping to continue research but also add a clinical component to my future. I will do this through applying to dual degree PhD/MD programs.
  1. How has participating in research affected your college experience?
    • My participation in research is one of the many highlights of being at Ursinus. I started my research with Dr. King as a volunteer observer my first semester at Ursinus. I have since progressed and have become an honors research student and leader of Dr. King’s lab. The opportunity to work in her research lab, not only exposed me to a research setting but also allowed me to think more critically and apply my knowledge in the lab to my coursework at Ursinus. My experience has shown me that I am capable of contributing to science, which motivates me set high goals for myself and pushes me to attain them.
  1. What has been the highlight of your research?
    • I have experienced many monumental moments working in Dr. King’s research lab, however, we are currently working on publishing our findings, which is something I have contributed to since I was a first-year student. It is an amazing feeling to organize all the data we have collected and see it be integrated in a way that allows you to see the bigger picture of why we are doing the research. Behind the many hours of cell maintenance, assays, and cell staining, it is rewarding to know that my efforts may one day help advance the scientific field and contribute to a better understanding of diseases like HIV, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinsons.
  1. Any words of wisdom for prospective student researchers?
    • One piece of advice that I think is crucial to prospective student researchers is to start early and be persistent. I reached out to Dr. King my first week of classes as a freshman at Ursinus, and she allowed me to observe other research students in her lab. Being a first-year student, I had limited lab experience, so I learned through the help of other research students. It was nerve-racking to be a freshman in a research lab, but it allowed me to start forming the foundation of my research at Ursinus early. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors about research and continue to stay with it, even if it is challenging in the beginning.
  1. Are there any fellow researchers or mentors you would like to thank?
    • I would like to thank Dr. King for providing me with amazing opportunities and allowing me to continue with them throughout my academic career. Being in Dr. King’s lab has turly allowed me to grow academically and personally. I would also like to thank Yoonjung Kim (’19) and Nyrobi Barnes (’20) for not only teaching me about lab procedures, but also inspiring me to continue research throughout my time at Ursinus. I would also like to thank Tatiana Swindell, Kelsey Blake, Carly Rodriguez, Josh Belder, Mekha Varghase, Trinady Banks, and Melanie DeRosa for helping with data collection and lab maintenance. I would also like to thank Anne Breen for continuously providing us with the materials we need to preform our experiments.